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(Full article with pictures from Wheels24.,3999,2-15-50_1139870,00.html)

Rover 75 Club

Some people might call it a "baby Jag" - a term MG-Rover executives abhor - but baby Jag or not, the Rover 75 is a great example of blue blooded British craftsmanship at a time when even Jaguar is battling to get the image right as a result of great gouts of American influence.

The Rover 75 is the first car displaying the longboat badge to be launched here in 24 years, and it is a well-specced, high quality example of automotive engineering that boasts the perceived value of the Germans, but with a uniquely British appeal.

Counting against it is the fact that Rover is an untested entity here, despite the car itself being feted overseas: awards include a Golden Steering Wheel from the respected German journal Bild am Sonntag, and a top five placing (out of 182 cars evaluated) in the influential JD Power customer satisfaction survey. In August last year, the 75 scooped its 16th award when it was chosen "Best Used Medium Car 2001" by the UK's Used Car Buyer magazine.

The version under scrutiny is the entry-level Club-spec five-speed manual, but as with the other three 75 derivatives offered by MG Rover SA, it is powered by a quad cam 2.5-litre V6 engine rated at 130 kW and 240 Nm.

With a wheelbase of 2.75 metres and a length of 4.75 metres, the Rover's price/size combination doesn't pitch it against many direct rivals. From bumper to bumper it is only 30 mm shorter than a 5-Series, though a comparison in wheelbase shows a 100 mm deficit. The converse is true when compared to the *** 3-Series: there is little difference in wheelbase, but the Rover is much longer overall.

So the sleek Rover sedan is a substantial car, and as a result has a roomy cabin, with relatively generous legroom, especially in the rear. The front-drive layout also helps to keep the mechanicals concentrated around the front axle.

The styling of the 75 is a mixed blessing depending on the individual point of view, and while the elegant profile is distinctively handsome, the dramatic downward slope of the boot lid limits the depth and practicality of the luggage compartment.

The cabin is one of the most cosseting at any price, however, and while the Club is equipped with "Speckle" velour upholstery as standard, the gear lever knob, handbrake grip and steering wheel are trimmed in leather - optional for the seats. The wheel has satellite controls for the six-speaker tuner/cassette player - strange that a CD front loader isn't fitted instead.

Auto temperature control

Additional standard features on the Club models include Rover's Automatic Temperature Control (ATC) air conditioning system, electric windows with a "one-shot" function for the driver, twin rear cup holders, electrically operated mirrors, and central locking.

The ambience of a Rover cabin is quite special, and while there are many cars similarly equipped and as luxurious at the price, few can match it for sheer opulence. The sense of occasion is not just a result of the way British carmakers combine wood, plastics and leather, but also thanks to precise assembly of high quality components.

It comes at a price though, and the 75's solidity is reflected in the ton-and-a-half kerb mass. The effect is that of being in a very well-appointed bank vault, with noise levels masterfully subdued, even when the quad cam V6 is revved hard.

And that's something that is often required as maximum torque is achieved at a high engine speed. It is all but inaudible cruising open roads at steady velocities, and the hushed atmosphere rivals that of vastly more expensive machinery.

The cabin's impressive comfort is flattered by a soothing, relaxed ride quality. This is achieved without sacrificing too much control, though the car's overall temperament is that of an easy-going companion, rather than a stimulating liaison.

In addition to all-wheel disc brakes with four-channel ABS and EBD, there are four air bags (front and side), seatbelt pre-tensioners and belt-force limiters. Fifteen-inch alloys shod with 205/65 rubber are specified for Club versions.

As the Rover 75 is a bigger car than many it is priced against, it thus carries a very real advantage in terms of cabin space. It'll appeal to many user-choosers seeking a conventional four-door sedan who feel a 3-Series, A4 or C-Class may be just that smidgen too small, and for whom a prestige badge remains a key purchase criteria.

So at face value, the 75 appears to have a great deal to offer. Exclusivity is also a given, though with just three dealerships (Cape Town, Durban, Sandton) the catchment area of each is huge by any standards.

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Fair old ex-pat community there, I can assure you. Spent a month or so in Utencraig, nr Port Elizabeth back in the 80's. The SD1 was big news amongst the Brits. I am hoping for very good things for the 75 there.
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